The #1 Drug That Raises Your Heart Attack Risk By 20%

By on July 16, 2015
Proton-pump inhibitors, or PPIs, are one of the most commonly-prescribed drugs in the world, designed to alleviate the pain of heartburn.

And although it’s good at it, there’s now a major reason to worry about this drug, say researchers.

Recent evidence uncovered by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine reveal PPIs could elevate the risk of having a heart attack by 20 percent–even if you’re considered healthy.

That’s scary news.

“These drugs may not be as safe as we think,” says Nicholas Leeper, M.D., an assistant professor of vascular surgery and cardiovascular medicine at the Stanford University Medical Center.

The Research

Investigating a possible link between PPIs and heart attacks, researchers turned to their best source–the Stanford Medicine Biomedical Data Science Initiative, or STRIDE, a database containing information on more than 1.8 million patients. They eventually narrowed down their search to 70,000 patients over the age of 18 who had been diagnosed with heartburn. Some of the patients also used PPIs or had previously reported having a heart attack.

Researchers compared the data to see if people who used PPIs had heart attacks more frequently–which they did.

Next, researchers examined another study studying 1,500 patients with chest pain or shortness of breath who reported using PPIs. Again, they compared the data to see if those who used PPIs had more heart problems. Compared to those who did not use PPIs, PPI users had a significantly higher risk, though the link was not causative.

However, researchers aren’t sure why this is happening.

“The association we found with PPI use and increased chances of a subsequent heart attack doesn’t in and of itself prove causation,” says Nigam Shah, PhD., M.B.B.S., an assistant professor of biomedical informatics and assistant director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Informatics Research. “The study combed through electronic health records of nearly 3 million people and crunched trillions of pieces of medical data, raising concerns that should be taken seriously, especially now that PPIs are available over the counter.”

Regardless of why it’s happening, however, researchers have one recommendation: Think twice before using this drug.

“This association needs to be tested in a large, prospective, randomized trial,” says Leeper. “The truth will come out when we randomize several hundred people, give half of them PPIs and put the other half on H2 blockers, and see what happens.”

What This Means For You

Want to alleviate heartburn? Before choosing medications, try natural alternatives first, such as changing your diet and lowering your weight. Though it won’t get rid of heartburn as fast, at least it won’t raise your risk of a heart attack–something PPIs can do.

Readers: How do you deal with heartburn?

Some Heartburn Drugs May Boost Risk of Heart Attack, Study
Some Heartburn Drugs Could Up Heart Attack
Some Heartburn Drugs May Boost Risk of Heart

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